Visiting Clark Park's farmers market

Every Saturday at 9 a.m. the gates open at the Clark Park community garden where yoga fans sprawl out on their mats and a local artist gets on the microphone to share some good tunes.

People from all over the community make their way to Clark Park to gather for the farmers market. There is a potent feeling of inclusivity with activities for all ages and with such a wide variety of products for sale. There seems to be something for everyone.

This market rotates vendors weekly. On my last visit, there were massages, food trucks, and arts and crafts. There was a wide range of local items for sale including art, honey, baked goods, jewelry, plants, fresh produce and soaps.

Barbara Lloyd, one of the founding members of the community garden, recounts how the garden was started from a city grant and the efforts of the Tempe Community Action Agency.

“We got a postcard mailer from the city saying the pool was going to be demolished and they were looking for the community to figure out alternatives for use of the space,” Lloyd says. “We wanted something that would have an impact on the neighborhood, take our park back and give the community something to do together so we agreed on the garden.”

Another volunteer community member, Frank Quijada, pointed out that soon enough the community garden be- came part of a bigger project for a community farmer’s market.

“We decided to bring back the farmer’s market that use to be on Mill Avenue,” Quijada says. “One thing led to another and our garden committee became a market committee.”

Dave Tally, the master gardener, explained that it was really a community effort that brought the market into fruition.

“This whole accumulation of the farmer’s market was about three years in the works,” Tally says. “The amazing thing is that people like Frank (Quijada) and the neighbor- hood association itself have taken ownership of this gar-

den. They do all the marketing. It all is a collaborative effort of the community itself.”

On a table resting on a tablecloth, there sat rows of ear- rings, necklaces and bracelets — all crystal style. There was one pair of sterling-silver earrings that was made by press- ing a leaf to create the mold. The maker of these creations, Cherrill Moran, has been in the business for years.

“I took a beading class at the Kiwanis Center, and then I took a few more classes and started giving it away to friends and family for gifts and people were like ‘oh my God you should sell this’ and I had a lot of inventory so I started sell- ing it and this is my first farmer’s market,” Moran says.

This may have been her first time selling at a market, but not her first visit to a market. She used to go to one when she lived in Idaho.

“You would see everybody the same Saturdays,” Moran says. “Everyone was biking or buying vegetable and stuff like that and it just feels like a community to me.”

“I like that this is supporting the community gardens and I think it is important for kids to know where their food comes from and how it’s grown,” Moran says. “I love that there are kids here doing community service. They helped set up tables this morning and they are working over pull- ing weeds, rotating the earth, stuff like that. It’s just another way to connect with people from Tempe.”

Another local vendor, Kat Djordjevic, brought her business, Pearl Coffee, to the market.

“We have Tanzania and Mexican beans,” Djordjevic says. “They are brewed in the same process but they have totally different flavors. They are from completely different continents so they taste completely different, which is really fun for me.”

She describes how she got her business started by saying, “I’ve always really loved coffee. It’s like a cultural thing for me. It’s an excuse to spend three hours talking with some- body and not moving. I was working at a very corporate job and I wanted coffee to be my five-year plan and then I really just started to see how this job was killing me. I was just drained so I decided it was my “today plan” ... I bought a roaster and that’s it.”

Djordjevic says the market highlights the importance of getting face-to-face interaction with her customers as op- posed to selling online.

“You don’t have interaction with people,” she says. “In the farmers market, you see people walking by and they are like ‘Oh, I don’t drink coffee’ or ‘Oh, I prefer this’ and then you can actually talk to them. ‘Well why do you prefer this? What do you like about it?’ and that helped us out a lot. You know, 20 percent is selling the product and then 80 percent is education and just talking to people.”

The farmer’s market as a whole breeds a culture of its own. Sustainability is encouraged through the aquaponics systems, in which fish are being raised and act as a source of fertilizer for plants. The feeling of community is another prominent aspect of the culture. In fact, Clark Park recently adopted the Resolana Project mural, which many may recognize from the wall on the boutique, Here, located on College Avenue and University Drive.

Quijada says the difference between the Clark Park Farmers’ Market and others, is that it’s a place to stay, relax and mingle.

“We have Press Play, that’s a jazz group from ASU,” Quijada says. “And then we have the food and the coffee and crepes and then, of course, the vendors. So they come and sit and socialize and really hang out and that’s the wonderful thing about it. They bring their dogs. We even have a garden dog.”

The community even plans to implement a dog park in the future.

“Every year we can apply for a grant,” Quijada says. “This shade structure and the bike racks were all done with a neighborhood grant. So we got another neighborhood grant and we are going to put a dog park in. We have a couple good neighbors who can make it happen.”

Tally explains some plans to make the park even more sustainable, with the addition of a water tank operating off solar power to use in the bathrooms.

The farmer’s market has been a place for members of the community to come together and create a relaxing place to spend a Saturday morning, and will continue to grow and expand in the coming years.

“We are just neighbors trying to get people together,” said Perron, to which Lloyd elaborated, “It’s been fun. It’s doing what we intended it to do. It’s getting people out here, changing the community and making a difference.” 

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